Tuesday, March 9, 2010

CC and the Five Canons of Rhetoric (Part 2)

(Read Part 1)

Classical Conversations' curriculum has been developed to draw students gradually into the practice of these rhetorical skills. Some of our Challenge curriculum looks unfamiliar or seems inadequate if compared to traditional education rather than to classical education. The intention was never to replicate course selections at a government high school or even to create one course in rhetoric.

The Challenge curriculum integrates the canons of rhetoric into all assignments. It is impossible for a young student to learn anything, let alone to develop difficult rhetorical skills, over a single semester. These skills take years to practice and are applicable to all subjects.

Look at math skills. If I’m going to teach you to solve two simultaneous equations like (1) x+ y = 4 and (2) 2x + y = 12, I have to make a number of decisions.

I could invent an explanation that uses the elimination method or the substitution method. I need to decide if I’m going to rearrange the equations to solve for y first or x first and if I’m going to begin with equation 1 or 2. My style determines if I’m going to jump straight into the solution, or if I’m going to compare the problem to a simpler one first in order to explain the eventual solution. Besides calling upon my memorization of the ways to balance equations, I also want to keep in mind the things that caused me to struggle when I was a student so I will give clear explanations as a tutor. And finally, I can deliver the solution in a dry step-by-step lecture, or I can get my students laughing and asking questions and remembering that solving simultaneous equations is no harder now than fractions were five years ago.

In every subject--in school and out--good communication demands consideration of the canons of rhetoric. As we progress through the year, I will be writing more about how to use rhetoric skills as a Challenge parent and tutor so that we may model for our students interesting and compelling ways to persuade others that the words we say are true.

Love, Leigh

1 comment:

imentor said...

Thank you! This is so helpful for us directors to solidify our understanding of rhetoric. We need to keep pounding in these pegs in order to communicate well the classical method to all parents. I just love this classical journey with Leigh and all of the other smart mamas out there!